San Salvatore in Lauro is a late 17th century parish, regional and titular church of medieval foundation, located at Piazza di San Salvatore in Lauro 15 in the rione Ponte. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons are here. There is an English Wikipedia page here.
The dedication is to the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
The first church was apparently built in the 12th century, since a bull of Pope Urban III of 1186 lists it as a parochial church dependent on San Lorenzo in Damaso. It was already dedicated to our Saviour by then, and was most likely called in lauro because of a nearby garden which had a laurel tree growing over its wall. Lauro refers to one tree, not a grove.
It was rebuilt c. 1450 by Cardinal Latino Orsini, who took it over as the chapel of a convent of Augustinian Canons Regular which he had founded next door. Since he came from Venice, he did not introduce Canons of the Lateran , as might be expected, but those from the Venetian congregation of San Giorgio in Alga. The new convent was dedicated to St George.
The church originally had a nave with side aisles, but the new building had a single nave only.
The church was burned out in 1591, but the monastery was unaffected. After the fire that gutted it, a rebuilding of the church was begun in 1594 by the architect Ottaviano Mascherino. However, there were only funds for him to complete the nave and this was done in 1600.
The monastery survived until 1668, when Pope Clement IX suppressed the congregation so that the Republic of Venice could convert its resources into cash for its war against the Ottoman Turks. (They managed to blow up the Parthenon at Athens in the process.)
The vacated Augustinian monastery was initially intended for the Discalced Carmelites, but in 1669 it became the headquarters of the "Confraternity of those from Piceno" (Confraternita dei Piceni). These were from the region around Ascoli Piceno, and were traditionally employed as papal soldiers and tax-collectors. The confraternity had been founded in 1633 and had been based at Santi Venanzio e Ansovino beforehand. It was dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto, and its full name was Confraternita della Santa Casa di Loreto della Nazione Marchigiana.
It paid a large sum of money for the complex, and then converted the convent into a college for the study of law and medicine. Since then, the church has been the regional one for expatriates from Ascoli Piceno in particular and the Marches generally.
The confraternity waited thirty years to do anything with the unfinished church. Then, in 1697 it employed Francesco Fontana to build a transept (he was a nephew of Carlo Fontana). The work only went on for a year, then there was a long pause.
In 1727, the confraternity finally had the funds to finish the church and restore the convent. Ludovico Sassi was employed to build the dome, sanctuary and campanile, and Nicola Salvi was put in charge of the proposed sacristy. The consecration was in 1731, although the work had not been completed.
Sassi left in 1734, so Salvi finished the work off and presented the completed church in 1736. There was no façade, and the confraternity decided to do without one.
Camillo Rusconi was in charge of the convent restoration, which he completed in 1734.
The present high altar dates from 1792.
The former convent premises were used as barracks during the French occupation.
In 1824 the church was made parochial, taking over the parish which used to belong to San Simeone Profeta (as a result, the latter building eventually fell into ruin). Unusually, the parish does not have the same dedication as the church it worships in but has the title Santa Maria della Nazione Picena.
A proper façade was finally provided for the church in 1862, after 268 years without one.
At the end of the 19th century, the Italian government required all religious confraternities performing charitable works either to register as secular charities or to hand over their assets to the state. As a result, the confraternity became a Pious Sodality (Pio Sodalizio), and remained in possession of the complex. It also owned certain other premises, notably the Palazzo di Sisto V in the Via di Parione.
In 1939, the city block to the south-west of the church was demolished. This made the piazza much larger, and joined it to the Via dei Coronari.
In 1963, the Sodality changed its status from a charity to that of an academic institution. At the end of the 20th century, the former convent was restored in order to become the Complesso Monumentale di San Salvatore in Lauro, a conference and exhibition centre especially devoted to the arts.
The church was titular from 1587 until 1670.
Layout and fabricEdit
The church has the plan of a Latin cross, having a single nave of four bays. Each bay has a pair of side chapels. Then comes a transept, slightly wider than the nave with chapels, and then a sanctuary with a polygonal apse.
There is a central dome over the crossing, slightly elliptical, of lead with eight ribs. It sits on an octagonal drum with recessed sides, each with a window, and has a lantern with a ball finial. The roofs of the transepts and short rectangular presbyterium are much lower than that of the nave, and oddly the ridgeline of the latter is actually higher than the drum of the dome.
The fabric is in brick, with some details in travertine limestone. The façade is entirely faced in travertine.
The campanile or bell-tower, designed by Nicola Salvi, was added in the 18th century. It is on the far side of the left hand transept, and is a chamfered square tower with a single arched soundhole on each side and an attractive ogee-curved tiled cap. Again there is a ball finial, matching that of the dome.
The impressive brick construction of the nave is visible from the piazza on the right hand side. The first storey has a roofline entablature, the dentillate cornice of which has a very deep overhang. Above this, massive pilaster buttresses rise to an equally deep cornice on the roofline, and this cornice angles around the tops of the buttresses to give a powerful crenellated impression.
The façade was rebuilt entirely in white travertine limestone by Camillo Guglielmetti in a faithful neo-Classical style, 1857-1862. Two Corinthian columns, in the round and detached, support a high, horizontal and shallow monumental porch with a deep entablature. The first storey cornice mentioned above runs around the top of this, and on top is an elaborate papal coat-of-arms. Either side of the entrance on the first storey frontage is a pair of recessed blank panels, a narrow horizontal rectangular one over a large vertical rectangular one.
The second storey bears the main feature of the façade, a sculpture by Rinaldo Rinaldi in another rectangular panel of the Madonna of Loreto riding through the sky on the Holy House of Nazareth. A further pair of blank panels flanks this sculpture.
The second storey entablature bears a blank triangular pediment, and the frieze of this has a dedicatory inscription Mariae Lauretanae Piceni Patronae. This means "To Mary of Loreto, Patroness of the Picenese" and contains a pun on the name of the church.
The former convent is north of the church. The buildings are arranged around a chiostro or cloister next to the church, and a cortile or courtyard just north of the chiostro.
The convent entrance is immediately to the left of the church, in the pink-rendered block facing the piazza. It has a molded doorcase, with a pair of conversing winged putto's heads under a floating incurved and molded cornice. This entrance is by Camillo Rusconi 1734, and was added when he restored the premises.
The former convent is now the Complesso Monumentale di San Salvatore in Lauro, and functions as an exhibition centre. Permanently resident here is the Galleria Mastroianni, featuring the work of the sculptor Umberto Mastroianni.
You used to be able to enter the complex through the sacristy of the church, but this informal arrangement is no longer to be relied on. The way in is through the entrance on the piazza, and you need to expect to pay an entrance fee if there is an exhibition in progress.
The 15th century chiostro is among the finest Renaissance cloisters in Rome. You enter it from the convent vestibule through an impressive carved wooden portal with a statue of Christ in a mandorla over the lintel. On top is a bird, meant to be a magpie -which is pica in Latin, a pun on the name of the confraternity. This portal was carved by one G. M. Giorgetti in 1734.
The chiostro was built c. 1450 on orders from Cardinal Orsini as the centre of his monastery, and has arcades for both first and second storeys on all four sides. The former has delicate molded arches springing from the capitals of derivative Composite columns, all in grey marble. There are sixteen of these columns, and four four semi-columns incorporated into piers at the corners. The walks are cross-vaulted
The second storey arcade has piers instead, and dates from the following century. The arches, however, match in size to give a pleasing effect. The piers have Doric imposts, and applied Doric pilasters. The fabric, like that of the walls, is rendered in yellow ochre.
The statue of a naked man sitting on a boulder in the centre of the garth has replaced a fountain.
Beyond the cloister is a peaceful cortile or courtyard. This shares a second storey arcade with the north side of the chiostro, and has an arcade on the east side. The central fountain, the Fontana dei Piceni, is 17th century and is tentatively attributed to Mascherino.
There are some fine sculptures here. There is a marble bas-relief of The Release of St Peter from Prison by the Angel, situated over the doorway that you enter through. This was originally in the 15th century church. It dates to the beginning of the 16th century, and has been attributed to the school of Luigi Capponi .
Two ornate doorways featuring saints, late 15th century, lead into the former chapter house and refectory. The former has over it a monument to Cardinal Latino Orsini, the founder of the monastery, which dominates the courtyard. It bears the date 1621, but this refers to the bust only. The ornate surrounding stonework is also late 15th century.
The refectory doorway in the arcade is flanked by a pair of matching late 15th century monuments, the left hand one of which is described as commemorating Cardinal Antonio Correr. The right hand one has a fine bust over a tablet which has lost its epitaph, and has been described as depicting St Lawrence Giustiniani. An alternative view is that the bust shows Pope Eugenius IV.
On the landing of a staircase is a Madonna with the Eternal Father, around 1500.
Salone dei PiceniEdit
The former refectory of the monastery is now called the Salone dei Piceni, and is a lecture and conference hall.
The far end wall has a fresco by Francesco de' Rossi (Il Salviati), which he painted in 1550, of the Wedding Feast of Cana. Note the dog and cat. The three fresco panels in the ceiling vault are also by him.
The left hand side wall has three 15th century funerary monuments. The most important is the memorial to Pope Eugenius IV (1431-1447), which was sculpted by Isaia of Pisa between 1450 and 1455, and moved here in 1591 when the old Basilica of St Peter was demolished. Picture of the monument is here. The other two later monuments are to a Spanish cardinal (given in the sources as Alessandro or Antonio), and to Maddalena Orsini. The latter is attributed to Giovanni Dalmata.
The nave is the work of Mascherino, and immediately recalls the designs of Palladio.
There are structural side aisles, but these are divided into chapel niches, four on each side, by blocking walls. Two of these niches are occupied by entrances, leaving three actual chapels on each side.
The piers of the arcades are very wide, and in front of each is a pair of monumental grey travertine Corinthian columns which hold up protruding sections of the internal entablature. There are thirty-four of these matching columns throughout the church. The entablature has a strongly projecting cornice with fronded modillions (corbels) interspersed with rosettes.
The ceiling is barrel-vaulted, and has window lunettes. It is divided into sections by wide doubled transverse arches springing from above the column pairs on either side. The decoration is very simple.
The counterfaçade has a large dedicatory inscription over the door, dating to the 1731 consecration and giving a short history of the edifice. A portrait in oils of the martyred bishop St Emygdius of Ascoli Piceno is in the ceiling vault lunette above.
The entrance is flanked by a pair of good 19th century memorials in Renaissance style. To the left is one to Cardinal Antonio Matteucci 1868, with a mosaic of him with the Madonna and Child by Prosperi, and to the right one to Cardinal Gaspare Pianetti 1872 with a little portrait in a tondo and a lunette relief of the Madonna and Child.
The nave entablature runs around the transept and sanctuary. The transept's triumphal arch springs from this, and its piers have a cluster of four columns each. This arch is one of four forming the pendentives of the dome, the other three being over the transept side chapels and the sanctuary.
The dome itself is simply decorated, like the nave vault, with the Dove of the Holy Spirit in the oculus. Eight large windows in the drum are separated by tripletted Doric pilasters, from the capitals of which spring the dome rays focusing on the oculus. The pendentives have frescoes of prophets by Luigi Fontana 1862.
The sanctuary has a single bay, with a barrel vault cut by two window lunettes throwing light onto th altar. In between these is a fresco of the Dove of the Holy Spirit.
The triumphal arch has four columns on either side, and a further two columns occupy the far corners of the sanctuary.
The altar aedicule dates from 1792, and is by Antonio Asprucci. Two massive Corinthian columns with gilded capitals, apparently of verde antico marble (but which look painted) support a slightly coved triangular pediment. On this sits two stucco angels. A crowd of such angels also occupy the spectacular and large gilded glory, which focuses on a little blue niche containing a statue of Our Lady of Loreto. Below this is a statue of Christ.
The artist of the stucco work was Pier Paolo Campi. The statue of Our Lady was originally by François Duquesnoy, and was crowned by the Vatican Chapter in 1644, but since 1921 has been replaced by a copy.
The chapels are described in anti-clockwise order, beginning to the right of the entrance.
Chapel of Our Lady of SorrowsEdit
The first chapel on the right is dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows, and is the Cappella Pavoni. It was fitted out by Carlo Francesco Bizzaccheri in 1694, who did not provide an altar aedicule but instead an ornate round-headed altarpiece frame with an incurved gabled cornice. On this sit two friendly stucco angels giving you a wave, who are by Camillo Rusconi. The altarpiece itself is a Pietà by Giuseppe Ghezzi of 1712. To the left is depicted St Anthony of Egypt and to the right St Nicholas of Tolentino by the same artist, and in the vault is God the Father.
Some relics of Pope St John Paul II are kept in this chapel, and there is a picture of him on the altar.
Chapel of St Charles BorromeoEdit
The second chapel on the right is dedicated to St Charles Borromeo. The aedicule has a pair of black marble Corinthian columns supporting a split segmental pediment into which a window is inserted. The altarpiece is by Alessandro Turchi, L'Orbetto, 1669 and shows the saint venerating Our Lady, together with St Francis in the background.
The vault is richly decorated in gilded stucco work.
The large crucifix here is from the 15th century.
Christ with St PioEdit
The next bay has no chapel, but instead a former side entrance. This is in polychrome marble, with a gallery above. The entrance is no longer used, and the space in front is now occupied by an interesting life-sized modern wooden sculpture of Christ carrying his cross with the help of St Pio of Pietrelcina.
Chapel of the NativityEdit
The third chapel to the right is dedicated to the Nativity. The altarpiece is by Pietro da Cortona.
Chapel of the Saints of the MarchesEdit
The chapel in the right hand end of the transept is dedicated to the saints of the Italian Marches. The aedicule has a pair of Corinthian columns in cipollino marble supporting a triangular pediment. The altarpiece is by Pietro Gagliardi, 1862.
Also here are memorials to Gaspare Fatati 1851, and to Cardinal Nicola Grimaldi 1845 with a bust by Perucci.
Chapel of the Holy HouseEdit
The chapel in the left hand end of the transept has the same design as that opposite. The altarpiece depicts Our Lady sitting on the Holy House while it is being carried from Nazareth to Loreto by angels (as the legend alleges). It is by Giovanni Peruzzini. The Baroque monument is to Cardinal Prospero Marefoschi.
Here also are memorials to Pietro Arpi 1870, and Camillo dei Valentini 1757.
The crucifix already met with used to be here, hence the name is sometimes given as the Cappella del Crocifisso.
The doorway here leads to the sacristy. The altarpiece depicts St Emygdius and the Saints of the Marches by Ghezzi, 1731.
Chapel of St LutgardEdit
The third chapel on the left is dedicated to St Lutgard, and is the Cappella Tiracorda. The altarpiece shows her swapping hearts with Christ. It is by Angelo Massarotti, 1723, who also executed the frescoes on the side walls and vault.
The next bay has no chapel, but contains an exit to the cloister which matches the side entrance opposite.
Chapel of St JosephEdit
The second chapel on the left is dedicated to St Joseph, and has an aedicule with two black marble Corinthian columns supporting a horizontal entablature with posts. The original altarpiece depicted SS Joseph, Joachim and Anne, by Pierleone Ghezzi 1755.
Here are displayed several relics pertaining to St Pio of Pietrelcina.
Chapel of St PeterEdit
On the altar is a portrait of St Josemaría Escrivá by the famous contemporary figurative artist Ulisse Sartini, executed in 2009.
The church is open, according to its website:
9:00 to 12:00, 15:00 to 19:00 daily.
Mass is celebrated, according to the church's website:
Sundays 10:00, 12:15, 18:00.
There is Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament from 16:00 to 18:00 daily.
As well as being the Roman sanctuary of Our Lady of Loreto, the church is home to a strong cultic devotion to St Pius of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio).
Details of special celebrations are here.
- Italian Wikipedia page
- Nolli map (look for 535)
- Church website
- Pious Sodality website
- "De Alvariis" gallery on Flickr